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Northern light

2016 Hope Award prize goes to nonprofit supporting foster care and adoption


A family at Beacon Hill. Handout

Northern light
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The grand prize winner of the 2016 Hope Award for Effective Compassion is … Beacon Hill in Anchorage, Alaska. Beacon Hill, the Northwest Region winner—and our first finalist ever from Alaska—is a foster care/adoption community center.

The article about Beacon Hill in our July 23 issue began, “Parents and children often share an expression of wonder when they enter Beacon Hill. … Their eyes widen as they scan the room popping with colors, textures, and sounds of children laughing and squealing as they pretend to drive a toddler-sized plastic school bus or flip through storybooks.”

That big room replaced a little room with a urine odor at Alaska’s Office of Children’s Services. There, small children removed from families and parents who have gotten their act together could interact, but the atmosphere was unpleasant. In the Beacon Hill playroom, though, “blobs of cotton hang from the ceiling like fluffy clouds. Green leaves dangle from branches sprouting out of a pillar painted into a snowy-barked tree.”

Ten families from Anchorage City Church began Beacon Hill in 2008. The nonprofit’s leaders learned that 1 out of 100 Alaskan children is in foster care because of trouble at home—twice the national rate. Founder and president Charity Carmody said Beacon Hill does not accept any government funding so as to “keep Christ in the center and everything to revolve around Christ.”

The Alaska Legislature is recognizing that religious organizations can do things the state cannot. This year legislators, with Beacon Hill in mind, voted unanimously for a bill that exempts private, nonprofit organizations running family support programs from state licensing and other requirements. Churches, Carmody said, are gradually “reclaiming the grounds that we’ve given over to the government, piece by piece.”

About 100 volunteers, mainly from neighboring churches, help Beacon Hill with transportation, meals, event planning, and prayers. “Support families” and “guest families” with kids close in age meet for a weekly meal that might feature moose soup, bear stew, even whale blubber.

Beacon Hill received 37 percent of the votes WORLD readers cast. Other regional winners were Advocates for Community Transformation in Dallas, K.I.D.S. Christian Music Center in Birmingham, Ala., New Day Foster Home in Beijing, and The Oaks Academy in Indianapolis.

For more about Beacon Hill, please go to wng.org/compassion. The $15,000 check WORLD will send to Beacon Hill should help, since the organization’s total income last year was $150,000. Starting at that web address, you’ll also be able to learn more about the other regional winners this year and the 90 Hope Award finalists we profiled over the previous 10 years. You may gain ideas about how in your own neighborhood you could help others spiritually and materially with problems ranging from disabilities and bad education to legal needs and repair work.

And it’s not too soon to think about next year’s 12th annual Hope Award contest. Our 95 finalists over the years have come from 34 states, so in our 2017 competition we’ll give preference to Christian nonprofits from the 16 states that have never had a finalist. That means, from the Northeast, Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia. From our Southeast Region: Mississippi and South Carolina. From our Northwest Region: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Oregon. From our Southwest Region: Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.

We’re not excluding groups from other states that also offer challenging, personal, and spiritual help and rely on the time and money of volunteers: If they don’t grab our attention next year, they’ll be eligible in succeeding years. Please email June McGraw (jmcgraw@wng.org) a note with the name of a Christian nonprofit you’ve observed and a paragraph about what it does.

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